Monday, September 7, 2015

Good News: There Will Be Fewer Lawyers

By Professor Doom

     The student loan scam hasn’t merely inflated the cost of higher education to the point that many people can’t afford to get a degree without going into debt, it’s also warped the part of the educational system that provides professional degrees.

     Years ago, law school wasn’t just expensive, it was also not easy to get into. Law schools took pride in their graduates’ success on the bar exam, took pride in producing graduates with real ability, and took pride in only admitting the best. Law school was always expensive, because, as a professional school, they had to pay real money to get people with real job skills—it’s not like a typical community college, which focuses on useless skills to teach useless courses, because it’s so much cheaper to hire people for those courses.

     Much like with what happened in the rest of higher education, administration realized “Hey, if we got rid of standards and didn’t care about quality, we could rake in far more off the student loan scam than we can get by being a legitimate school.”

    And so, open enrollment became as much a standard at law schools as it did with community college. Fair enough, I suppose, but it eventually got out that the result of open enrollment was a tremendous screwing-over of students: there simply was no need for so many people with law degrees. And so, much like with the rest of higher education, there were many graduates that had no way to get jobs with their degrees…with the important exception that law degrees are much, much, more expensive. This led to students with truly horrific student loan debts, and no way to pay them.

     Now that word’s out about what a waste of time most law degrees are, students are not applying. It’s not just art students who are realizing that going deep into debt for worthless degrees is a bad idea. Law school enrollments are dropping:

This means we can estimate this fall's entering class will be roughly around 35,300 1Ls, down from 52,500 just five years ago.  Somewhere between 85% to 90% of those people will end up graduating, depending on various assumptions (Given the radical slashing of admissions standards at so many schools, it seems reasonable to assume drop out/flunk out rates may rise.

     Now, the legitimate schools aren’t bearing the brunt of this: being legitimate really is an advantage, even with the immense pressure of the student loan scam destroying higher education.

    Accreditation is just as bogus for law schools as for the rest of higher education, so allow me to look at particularly unpleasant law school, to further illustrate the parallels:

I guess firing 70 of your 119 full-time faculty in one fell swoop in the kind of gust of creative destruction that’s necessary to protect those precious non-profit margins, that allowed the school to pay President for Life LeDuc $675,626 last year, and kicking $373,550 to the school’s founder Thomas Brennan, for what the school estimated to be five hours of “work” per week, while still maintaining a net surplus of $2.5 million in revenues over expenses. 

     Hmm, huge sums go to the untouchable caste of administration, while full time workers eliminated, to be replaced with part time workers. Nope, not much difference there between that and what’s going on at our state universities and other institutions.

    The bogus schools are hurting, not that anyone should care:

The biggest of all the scam factories, Thomas Cooley, fired nearly 60% of its faculty last August. Thomas Jefferson had to give its shiny new building to its creditors, and limps along on life support. Hamline is effectively ceasing to exist, after a face-saving (for its parent university) "merger" with William Mitchell, that will leave the combined institutions with the same number of law students Mitchell had last year.  And after a hurricane of bad publicity, the Infilaw scamsters are on the run.

     So, good news: in the years to come, there will be fewer lawyers. Unfortunately, it’ll take years before the glut of lawyers is fully resolved, but at least there’s hope.

     In a similar vein, we’re starting to finally see a trend towards people waking up and realizing that taking on huge debts for worthless professional degrees is a bad idea. At the undergraduate level, there has been a slight reduction in student enrollments the last few years, although you certainly can’t tell it from all the construction on campus…nor will you see administrator pay being reduced. It’s another weird thing about higher education. When enrollments go up, administrators make more, and when enrollments go down, faculty get fired.

     So in the near term, we’ll have fewer lawyers, but soon we’ll have fewer BA Psychology Degrees, fewer BA Gender Studies Degrees, and quite a few other fields that, while of use, have been grossly overproduced in the administrative quest for growth, growth, growth.


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